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Getting the Hang of the Twitter Culture




By Patricia Skinner

Twitter’s Population Explosion

In the past six months or so there has been a staggering surge of users on Twitter, as word gets round about what a wonderful networking tool it is. As you’d expect, a fair number of recent newcomers make no secret of the fact that they only joined to further their business interests. So we old-timer Twitterers are happy to see articles like Beth Harte’s Twitter for Business: Ten Things to Consider Before You Get Started, over at Search Engine Guide.

We’ve all seen too much less-than-subtle marketing (spamming is not too strong a term) from people who are in such a rush to turn a profit they don’t even stop to consider what the rules might be!

And of course there are rules. Failing to find out what the accepted procedures are when you join a community like Twitter is setting yourself up for failure.

While I agree with Beth when she says:

Decide before you join how you want to use Twitter.

I have to say that I feel the first step should be finding out what everyone else is doing and how they use Twitter. It is essential to strike up a rapport with your Twitter network first before you go ahead and start slamming them with your marketing messages.

Placing Yourself for Success on Twitter

If you spend a while getting a feel for the network before you launch a campaign to convert everyone, you’ll notice that yes, there’s a facility for automatically direct-messaging your followers in private, but you’ll also be aware that most of the Twitter community hates being the target of those messages and they’re likely to unfollow you in short order.

In general, Twitter users are a savvy lot, so it didn’t surprise me today to see one of them Tweet that he was considering unfollowing one individual because he Tweeted a direct quote from Seth Godin without attributing it to him—in other words passing it off as his own. This kind of duplicity is radically counter to the whole Twitter-culture. Twitter is a medium of sincerity if nothing else. You will soon be outed if you are fake and fickle.

Building Your Twitter Brand

Beth also says:

Be sure to use a photo (and not a logo), fill out the description (tell folks why they should be interested in following) and include a link to the company’s website.

I’ve seen business-oriented Tweets posted by people with the silliest avatars that couldn’t possibly lend them any credibility. Talk about negative branding. A photo that makes you look approachable and that reveals at least some of your personality will get you the best following. Second-best is your logo. However, the quality of your updates will be your most valuable asset when growing your list of followers.

Failing to take note of this advice may well put you at a marketing disadvantage when using Twitter. Rather like the Motrin company’s misstep that was rapidly judged by thousands of people via Twitter recently. Be very sure that bad news travels a lot faster and a lot further on Twitter than it does just about anywhere else online or elsewhere.

And finally from Beth:

Let everyone be authentic. Twitter isn’t about just tweeting news about your company or promotional deals. It’s about developing relationships. If you or an employee loves music, let that come through too.

I couldn’t agree more. From observation as well as personal preference, I feel that people who join Twitter just to promote their message, whatever it is, are totally missing the point of Twitter.

It’s not just about the business…

Notwithstanding efforts to monetize the service, Twitter isn’t just about doing business. It’s about forging sincere relationships with a (for the most part) great bunch of people. It’s about hearing and being heard. It’s about hooking up with vitally interesting people who also find you interesting. It’s about learning new things and a totally new way of doing business. Yes, you’ll further your business if you get it right, but it probably won’t be in the way you’re accustomed to doing business online.

Twitter will take you totally by surprise and you’ll be completely in awe of it.

Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social director at Mideast SEO, providing branding, social media marketing and organic search. Connect with her on Twitter: ISpeakSEO.

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  • http://financialbreakthrough101.com/ Kenney @ How To Make Money Blog

    Isn’t that the truth. A ton of people fail at joining communities then wonder why they get kick out.

    “What…I wasn’t spamming, why did they close my account” …lol.

    This is a great reference thanks.

  • Anon

    Hi Kenney. While it’s rare to actually get kicked out of Twitter, your network will unfollow you for antisocial behavior. And it is SO hard to get that trust back once it is gone. The thing is that all the social networking sites are linked: members of Twitter also have Facebook, Plurk and FriendFeed accounts, for example. So if you mess up in one space you’re likely to instantly get a bad reputation elsewhere too. It really is all about credibility and trust in the social media sphere.

  • http://www.staygolinks.com/ Barry Welford

    An excellent topic and dear to my heart. It’s essential to fit in with the culture of any social media. You can test the boundaries a little and tap the bars of the cage, but if you just don’t fit in, you’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own.

    Barry Welford’s last blog post..Abu Dhabi Brand Faith News Flash

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Hi Patricia, thank you so much for spotlighting my post on SEG, it’s much appreciated! I like your additions…it’s very true that people considering joining Twitter from a business perspective need to understand and appreciate the underlying rules and etiquette.

    To your point “…It is essential to strike up a rapport with your Twitter network first before you go ahead and start slamming them with your marketing messages…”, I wasn’t suggesting to not get a lay of the land before diving in as I really do think that businesses need to have a clear direction and/or plan for how they’d like to incorporate Twitter into their communication efforts. They may think that it’s a great tool for social networking, but might ultimately end up using it for customer service (or vice versa). That’s just one example.

    I like “Anon’s” point too…spam in Twitter and your reputation will follow you. Very true.

  • Pilgrim Writer

    Hi Beth, Anon was me. Today I”m Pilgrim Writer, lol.

    I loved what you said but I felt there was more. A tweet came through to me the other day where someone was offering information on ‘how to make more money from your Twitter network.’ I was totally affronted. I Tweeted back straight away that my network is far too precious to me to even think of making money off them. And I think therein lies the difference. Some of us just see Twitter as a wonderful way of interacting with people we like, with business enhancing benefits as a sweet aside.

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  • http://www.interleado.com Leila

    Nice expansion on Beth’s article – I read them both.

    You both give some good “proof” of how Twitter can work for businesses and that you can use it for more than one reason. Passing along to my boss too, he’d be interested!

    Good post.

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  • http://www.tnsmediagroup.com Trevor Wolfe

    There is definitely a steep learning curve. Old timers would do well to be patient and encourage those dipping their toes in the water for the first time and not scream intrusion. Call out the obvious spammers, but businesses who do well, probably already have some natural inclination to act as would Beth’s anthropologist analogy.